Attorney General nominee Judge Merrick Garland faced repeated questions Monday about the John Durham probe into alleged FBI misconduct – but avoided being pinned down by Republicans who wanted him to pledge he would continue it.
A series of Republicans sought assurances from President Joe Biden‘s nominee about whether he would allow continuation of the probe that began under Attorney General Bill Barr, who outlined his own sweeping views of executive power and proceeded to infuriate Democrats with his handling of the Mueller probe.
Garland at his confirmation hearing conveyed to senators that he backed the Biden team’s decision to keep Durham and his probe in place, even as a host of other U.S. Attorneys were dismissed at the start of the administration.
Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland expressed agreement with the decision to continue the Durham probe into alleged FBI misconduct, but fell short of commitments Republicans sought
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) was among those who sought to get Garland to commit to supporting Durham’s probe of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.
‘Sitting here today I have no reason to think that that was not the correct decision’ to keep Durham’s probe in place, Garland responded.
Pressed on whether he meant Durham would only be removed for cause, Garland refused to commit: ‘I really do have to have an opportunity to talk with him.’
‘I don’t have any reason from what I know now … to make any determination on that ground,’ he explained. ‘But I don’t have any reason to think that he should not remain in place.’
He made similar efforts to avoid getting down when questioned by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who pressed him on whether Durham would get the time, staff and resources he needs.
There were a series of published reports that President Trump wanted Durham to release information from his investigation before the November election – in the kind of ‘political interference’ Garland was asked to forswear at the hearing.
‘It’s because I’m sitting here and I don’t have any information about what he needs, in his resources and the allocation of resources. Everything I know sitting here suggests he should of course have those resources,’ he said.
Bill Barr named John Durham a special counsel. His probe of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation continues
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was among several Republicans who sought assurances that Garland would preserve the Durham probe and provide resources to it
Sen. Ted Cruz (D-TX) claimed Garland was preserving the option to terminate the probe
President Donald Trump, pictured Thursday, continues to rail against the Russia probe
‘I have to know the facts before I can make those kinds of decisions,’ he said. ‘I don’t know what went into his consideration.’
‘But as I said, I have no reason to doubt that the decision to keep him in place and the continuing in his investigation was in any way wrong.’
Barr created the probe following an inspector general’s report on the origins of the Russia probe, which President Trump railed about as a ‘witch hunt.’
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has taken political heat for his backing of challenging certified votes during the electoral count, called the Durham probe ‘highly political’ and said it ‘potentially implicates Joe Biden and Barack Obama,’ and pressed him on his refusal to commit to continue it.
‘You want to keep the options open to terminate the investigation.’
‘I’m not refusing to give that commitment because I am a judge. I’m telling you what I think an attorney general ought to do, which is to look at the facts before making a decision,’ he told him. He said he would ‘never’ make a decision based on politics or partisanship.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois addressed the matter, ‘since it appeared , reappeared, and then appeared again.’
He noted that when the administration reported its policy on U.S. attorneys, it made exceptions for Durham and the U.S. attorney in Delaware who began an investigation into Hunter Biden, another sensitive matter.
Then he took a dig at Barr that Garland was unwilling to make.
‘We do remember that he wrote an unsolicited memo questioning the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation, before he was under active consideration for the office of attorney general,’ he said.
Former Attorney General Bill Barr designated Durham as a special counsel before leaving office. Durham is remaining in that post even as he relinquishes his U.S. Attorney post along with other Trump appointees.